Today I received an e-mail from a chronic pain patient who has been very active on our blog and friend to Facebook’s Paindr. I was both moved and bothered by the e-mail she sent regarding my pharmacist colleagues that chose a career in Community Pharmacy (with Walgreens) versus a Clinical Career track, although I recognize that all of us have an important role in direct patient care regardless of the titles we hold.
As many of you know, there was a recent Guest Blog post, Is Walgreens Opiate Policy Deceptive?, by Dr. Ernest Dole on this very topic of Walgreens’ pharmacist refusal to fill opioid prescriptions. As a heads-up and some foreshadowing, Dr. Dole and I will be publishing a guest commentary in Drug Topics on the recent statement by AMA physician Dr. Sterling to pharmacists, “Don’t Call Us We’ll Call you”, a preposterous expectation that would no doubt adversely affect patient care for many reasons.
The e-mail below asks me two specific questions;
1. Do retail pharmacists attend yearly seminars and such, and would this topic possibly be addressed at those seminars? Yes, there is mandatory continuing education requirement for all pharmacists, but there is no specific requirement that the education be for analgesic therapy.
2. Could talks with Walgreens be initiated by PROMPT to try to educate and maybe see what the problem is? I’m sure our countrywide PROMPT members would be delighted to work with Walgreens or any other group to teach and promote education specific to pain therapeutics. Many of them are significantly involved with teaching already.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE YOUR COMMENTS!
Ms. Maston writes…
I hope you are well. Today I ran across another news article, this time from Georgia, where doctors are complaining that Walgreens is refusing to fill their prescriptions for pain medications. I’m well aware of what has happened in regards to Walgreens and the DEA, as I have been following this from the beginning.http://www.wsbtv.com/news/
The thing that really stands out to me is that Walgreens keeps claiming that they are leaving the choice to fill or refuse to fill totally up to the pharmacist’s discretion. I know that you can’t personally speak for every pharmacist, and I don’t expect you to, but I’m wondering what your take on this is, since patients are being denied these medications in record numbers now. Do retail pharmacists attend yearly seminars and such, and would this topic possibly be addressed at those seminars, or could talks with Walgreens be initiated by PROMPT to try to educate and maybe see what the problem is?
I worked in retail pharmacy for several years, and I know that these pharmacists have to follow corporate procedures, and a lot of times those procedures are more focused on risk management than what is best for the people they serve, and rather than what actually makes sense. They are trying to cover their behinds because they know they are being watched very closely. I can’t help but wonder if there are also threats being made to the pharmacists behind the scenes.
The numbers of people who are being denied their prescriptions by Walgreens pharmacists are staggering across the country. Anyone can look at this situation and see that there has to be more going on than just “leaving it to the pharmacist’s discretion.” Unless Walgreens is just going to stop filling opioid medications completely, in which case, they should announce that to the general public instead of sending thousands upon thousands of people across the country on wild goose chases to get their legitimate prescriptions filled. I can’t imagine that that would be good for their bottom line either.
Whatever the deal is, I have several patients that have been denied pain medications by Walgreens pharmacists. I have also personally been denied pain medications by Walgreens in the past. I am advising all of my patients not to use Walgreens any more. Maybe once they lose enough money, the “discretionary views” of these pharmacists will suddenly change. I don’t know, but I do know that what’s going on is not right, and that there seems to be a very real need for education here. Thanks for your time, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Ms. Maston suffers from a rare, congenital birth defect, Medullary Sponge Kidney or MSK. She is dedicated to raising general public and medical professional awareness about this painful, life altering disease, and to generating new research and treatment options that could help fellow patients cope with the associated medical and social problems.